Mar 10, 2021 - World

Biden administration aims to avoid public feud with Israel over Iran

Rob Malley. Photo: Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

State Department Iran envoy Rob Malley tells Axios the U.S. and Israel want to avoid the sort of public confrontation over Iran that took place during the Obama administration.

Why it matters: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly campaigned against Obama's attempts to reach an agreement with Iran between 2013 and 2015 — including in a highly controversial speech to Congress. This created a rift that scarred both sides.

Driving the news: U.S. and Israeli interagency teams led by national security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat will hold a first round of talks on Iran on Thursday via secure video conference.

  • The Israelis are very happy that the U.S.-Israel strategic forum, which was established during Obama’s first term, has been resumed by the Biden administration.
  • Israeli officials tell me they want to use the first meeting to lay out the latest intelligence and data on Iran's nuclear program and assess whether the U.S. and Israeli intelligence pictures align.
  • National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne confirmed that the meeting would take place on Thursday.

What he's saying: Malley told me the Biden administration is committed to being consultative and transparent with Israel and that he had already spoken extensively with Israeli officials.

  • “We don’t always agree, but the talks are extremely open and positive. While we may have different interpretations and views as to what happened in 2015–2016, neither of us wishes to repeat it," Malley said.
  • Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a briefing with Israeli ambassadors abroad last week there is an understanding between the U.S. and Israel on a “no surprises policy” — meaning the Biden administration will give Israel prior notice of any decision regarding Iran.

Go deeper: Malley on the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal timeline

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